Home                 Oliver Comins, 3 January, 2020              Oliver Comins read from three pamphlets and Oak Fish Island, his full collection. He began with ‘The Visit’. The day begins with the rustle of something outside my window. You are there, in a drift of old leaves, carrying your plan of action. You wave a map and some keys: we are to head out of town …’ The ‘you’ is of driving age, and possibly someone now dead (rustle, old leaves). The moment was precious. There’s an exhilaration about the lines. Stanza 2 spotlights a formal garden. But the pair can only peer ‘through an iron gate’. They don’t have access to its enticements. While they wait ‘for something to happen’ two cirrus clouds ‘disrupt the blue’. We’re not quite in the heaven that they anticipated. Maybe not even in reality. There is no photograph that would have recorded the occasion, and the third stanza doesn’t answer the mystery of this ‘truant day’. The poem might be an elegy. It was a good starter. I enjoy poems that leave much to the reader to interpret her or his own way. Carol Ann Duffy commented that ‘Oliver Comins writes an affirmative, open poetry which has its source emphatically in the writer’s life.’ This goes for most of the work he read, covering a range of subjects from golf to place and its people. D.A.Prince wrote of the whole collection that Comins…is writing about what matters and what will survive.   ** ‘Parks and gardens’ elicited a fine flurry of poems from the floor, only a couple about the joy of plants themselves. Alice’s ‘The garden – where the sweet bulbs bloom’ was one of them, endorsed with the hard fact that ‘nurture implies choice’ and a snowdrop cultivar sells for £100. Evelyn’s untitled poem arrived with splendid photographs of local trees surviving from a park that has lost it’s mansion. Both Sally Hammond’s ‘A seat for all seasons’ and Michael C’s ‘A Visit to my Mother’ used flower or insect-filled landscapes to remind them of aged parents. The former had a lovely break before the final stanza, ‘I reach out my hand //’If you walk with me now’ / I say / ‘Under this rose arch …’. Michael’s had several arguments. Memory and its unpredictable losses, the power of a poem to be memorable and the limitations of divine power. Both Maureen and Briony chose to remember a much-loved and celebrated son/elder brother with flowers. Briony homed in on his last days. Maureen on the kindness and spontaneity of a fellow mourner who delivered a bouquet containing buried chocolates. From Pippa we heard three poems penned for Finger Press over 30 years ago. ‘Seed Catalogue’, ‘In the Garden of the Night’, and ‘On leaving Stiffkey forever’. A mixture of dreams, wit and melancholia. Sally L’s ‘Marsh Garden’ was a perceptive homage to our Saltings and their inhabitants. Peter’s ‘From A Manual For Walkers’ was a clever spoof on the almost martial instructions one reads in Walking Tour Guides. His poem has a strong musical element. The prize for punning, has to go to John’s Wordsworthian ‘Death in the garden’. I wandered lonely – I lost my pills among the host of daffodils. Without them I’d be very ill. Oh how I hate the daffodil. Carol Anne Duffy’s sonnet ‘Gardening’, and Billy Collins’ ‘Today’, were read respectively by Helen and Carla. Neither poem uses a ‘poetic’ or a surplus word, and this is harder than you imagine. The first has brilliant line-breaks; the second, an inspired casualness throughout nine couplets. The poems are models of their kind, and lessons in the importance of form.